A post by David Capes:
My wife and I led a seminar at our church for couples who are planning on getting married in the next year. In the first session we talked about the ideal of marriage, oneness, and some of the things we’ve learned over the last 35 years of being together.
After our presentation we asked for questions and a young woman responded. I’m not sure it was a question as much as it was a comment. She said that she and her fiancé had been living together and had even purchased a house together, so much of our advice seemed irrelevant to her because their situation was so different than the situation my wife and I faced many years ago.
Every culture thinks it is unique, that the issues they face are not like the issues their parents and grandparents faced. To some degree it is true, but in the main it is not true.
Every culture is unique, just like the thousands of cultures that make up human societies that occupy planet Earth right now (I’m fond of saying, “every person is unique . . . just like the 6 Billion other people on earth”). Every culture is unique, just like the thousands of generations that have come and gone before us. But just because a culture is unique doesn’t mean that it is special, that it has arrived at some new or superior place or that it is immune from the problems that have plagued people in the past.
Biologists, psychologists, and sociologists tell us that people today are much the same as people in the past. We haven’t changed much over the last 2000 years. You could take a child born in Plato’s Athens and bring her into the 21st century, put her in a modern family with modern education, and the child could be sitting at the gifted and talented table beside children born in the 21st century. There’s no real difference.
Perhaps you’ve seen the car commercial that claims: “this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile.” Well, clearly it is not. We are supposed to believe that it is better. And it is. Over the last 100 years technology has been moving at a pretty good clip. But even if technology advances, people haven’t. People today have the same desires, fears, hopes, problems, and faults as people who lived 1000 years ago. My parents, for example, had radio when they were dating. I had color TV. Today’s couples have different, more advanced technologies. But we all enjoy and seek out entertainment. My parents enjoyed Sinatra (I do too!). I liked the Allman Brothers. Today a couple may listen to Jay-Z. But we all have our music and it speaks to us.
Since the 1980s sociological research has shown that people who live together before being married do not report higher levels of marital satisfaction than those who don’t. Those who live together before marriage divorce at higher rates and for the same reasons as people who’ve taken a more traditional route to the altar. Interestingly, people who become engaged before choosing to live together enjoy a slightly higher level of marital success than those who live together before getting engaged. These days people may live together first to see if they are compatible, but that arrangement has not proven to help us choose a mate more effectively.
The Scripture teaches the ideal of marriage. Take a look at Genesis 1-2 or Mark 10:2-8. Here is the key verse: “’For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother [to marry his wife], and the two of them will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two people, but one. What God has joined together in this way, no one may sever” (Mark 10: 7-9).
Let me state the ideal of marriage clearly: One Man and One Woman in a One Flesh relationship For Life. That is the ideal. Anything less than that or anything other than that misses the ideal. We are to keep that ideal in front of us and conform our lives to it. Many choices we see today violate that ideal: adultery, divorce, polygamy, affairs, abuse, pornography, prostitution, convenience marriages, celibacy in marriage. Thank God that grace is greater than our failures. In the end people who live together are not likely to achieve “one fleshness” because the commitment “for life” is not there. Both people know that if it doesn’t work out then they can go their separate ways.
Good marriages are rare in any culture. They take hard work and commitment. Success in marriage is possible if you keep to the ideal and seek out the counsel of some wise people. A good dose of humility will help.